I wasn’t sure I was going to post this. I left out quite a bit and it probably won’t make sense to anyone who didn’t know my father, or who doesn’t know me. But I think it is important to say things, to get them out there. Even the stuff you don’t want other people to know. Maybe especially that stuff.
I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for 35 years – 28 years before I even had a blog. It was difficult for me to write about certain things while MoC was alive, for lots of different reasons. When she had the stroke and stopped reading my blog, it was easier to write but I had a lot going on and it didn’t seem as important. Now that she’s dead, I seem to have lost the will to write, especially about anything that requires more than superficial thought or effort.
When we were cleaning out MoC’s apartment, my sisters found a letter that my father had written. He had terrible handwriting and it was difficult to read, but it was kind of devastating on an emotional level. I can’t go into the details of the letter, but I remember feeling physically sick while I was reading it, all 7 or 8 pages of it. It was angry. It was mocking. It was scathing and sarcastic, inconsiderate, rude, arrogant and condescending. Writing those last four sentences made me feel just as sick as I felt when I read the letter. It felt like I was holding and reading pure poison. That night, the letter met the shredder. But I wish I had kept it. As a reminder. I wonder if that’s why MoC held on to it for over 40 years.
That letter summed up his personality better than I ever could. I have never spent any amount of time talking about my father here. I’ve heard it’s not nice to speak ill of the dead, for one thing. Then I told myself it was the past and it shouldn’t matter anymore. That is true to a great degree, but it doesn’t quite cut it. I don’t think he was evil; I think he was sick, but it affected me. It affected all of us in different ways. For me, my biggest fear was always that I am just like him. When I look at some of my past relationships, it was an understandable fear.
After reading that letter, my sisters said a couple of interesting things. One said: When Dad died, I was happy and I never thought about him again. The other said: When Dad died, I was glad it was him and not Mom, because I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with him for another 20 years.
My first reaction when he died was relief. For years, I told myself that it was because he wasn’t in pain anymore (he had bone cancer), but that is not quite true. I was relieved because he was gone and it was over. Forever. Telling myself that I felt that way because he was no longer suffering was just my way of justifying it.
If someone asked me if I loved my father, I would say yes because … well, because that’s what you’re supposed to say. I don’t really think I did, though. I know I didn’t like him. He was difficult to live with, silent and broody. I don’t remember him ever telling me he was proud of me, not once. I remember him yelling at me and making me feel like a half-wit. That happened just about every day. Whatever the situation was, I always walked away knowing that it was my fault, that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough. He either had no idea how to talk to people or he didn’t care enough to learn. I strongly suspect he just didn’t care.
I allowed his dark shadow to follow me around for far longer than I should have. He wasn’t a god. He was just a man. And he wasn’t a very nice man, either, not at his core, not where it counts. I never asked my mother why she stayed with him. We never talked about him in any real way. Once he died, he was elevated to a kind of sainthood and she never said a bad word about him. And I don’t think that talking about it with her would have helped much anyway. I had to get to a place where I could look at it with some objectivity.
So, after 35 years of trying to figure it out, this is what I learned. I am not just like my father. I am better than he could have ever hoped to be. I do not have the emotional intelligence of a gnat. At the very least, I am an emotional monkey. I don’t feel inferior anymore.
I have nothing to prove.
For the first time in a long time, I am content and I am happy. And that is not only enough, it is pretty much all there is.